I know that stretching + running is a widely debated topic. Should you stretch before you run? Should you stretch after you run? Does stretching and flexibility actually inhibit performance? Does it prevent injury?
By no means am I an expert at answering these questions, but I will share with you what I've learned and seen in my own personal experience.
As a certified yoga instructor, I'd be lying if I didn't say that my point of view is a little biased towards stretching. I think that flexibility and stretching is an important component of any fitness regime. I actually got into yoga originally to cross train and prevent injury from my long distance running practice. And then I fell in love -- another story for another time. The point is, I've found stretching to be a wonderful and healthy complement to running for me. I feel more nimble, more athletic, and less prone to injury because of this.
That being said, I do not do any static stretching before I run. I've found that stretching before I run actually exhausts my muscles and inhibits my performance. So instead of holding a forward fold or a calf stretch before I run, I do a handful of dynamic stretches and then get a move on.
I do like to stretch after I run. For me, it's a win-win. Stretching after I run is good for both my running practice and my yoga practice. My muscles are super warm, so I can actually get deeper into stretches than I would be able to cold, and a goal of mine is to continue to increase flexibility. And it helps me to relax after my run.
Here are the 5 stretches that I like to do after running. Before I hop into the first stretch, I do a quick cool down walk.
1. High Lunges
2. Standing Forward Fold + Wide Leg Forward Fold
3. Standing Quad Stretch
4. Seated Hurdle Stretch
5. Pigeon Pose (Glute Stretch)
Those are my typical 5. But if I'm feeling tightness in other places, I'll stretch those out too. For instance, if my hamstrings are especially tight, I'll do a standing one leg hamstring stretch before I go into forward fold. Or I'll throw in a curb calf stretch if my calves feel tight.
Lately, I've also been moving into my full side splits after pigeon. That has nothing to do with running, I'm just taking advantage of my muscles being warm to move further into this stretch.
I'm also interested in foam rolling. I don't currently do it as part of my recovery routine, but I know a lot of people who really love the post foam roll feel. I'm curious to know your thoughts about foam rolling and stretching!